The Beauty of Words

A wonderful little book has come into my possession. It is a facsimile of the 1933 “Picturesque Word Origins” originally published by the by the same people who publish the Webster’s Dictionary. (This edition is by the Folio Society). With a number of delightful illustrations it traces the origins of a selection of words. Following are just a few:

“Congregation” is derived from the latin – “grex” meaning flock and translates as “to gather the flock”. This, of course, combines beautifully with the image of pastor or “pastum”, a shepherd.

“Enthusiasm” comes from the Greek “en” in and “theos” god – in other words, having god within. Now, shouldn’t all Christians be enthusiastic!

“Neighbour” takes us to an agricultural time. It comes from the Anglo-Saxon “neah” or “nigh” meaning near and “gebur” meaning farmer. Your neighbour was the “near – farmer”. In modern life this has turned into the person next door.

A “Pedagogue” was a trusted slave in Greece who escorted or led “agogos” the master’s sons “pais”. They were “boy guiders”. This was borrowed by Latin an turned into “pedagogus”.

“Volume” comes from the days when sheets of papyrus were glued into a roll, “volumen” in Latin, and the document was rolled, from “volvere”, from one staff to the other.

Psalm originates from plucking a stringed instrument; Rapture from abduction by force, and chapel finds its origins in a cloak or hood. I could go on but I wont. It is a such a wonderful book. For me it was an apt reminder that words carry meaning and to explore these can be richly rewarding.

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